Are you a single parent? Here’s what you should know about your taxes.

April 1, 2021

Managing a family is a lot of work, so when it comes to your taxes, there’s a few ways the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Revenu Québec help out with expenses. Here’s what you should know about how your situation can affect your taxes and what you can claim on your return.

Make sure your child is an eligible dependant before you claim them.

Single parents are allowed to claim the amount for an eligible dependent for one of their children. To qualify, you have to support your child in a home that you live in and maintain, whether that’s a house, an apartment, or anything in between.

If you’re a resident of Québec and you maintain your home on your own, you might also be able to claim the amount for a person living alone to lower your tax payable, plus the additional amount for single parents.

Register for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).

This is a tax-free monthly payment meant to help eligible families with the costs of raising children under the age of 18. It’s calculated by your household income level, so the amount you can receive depends on your earnings. In joint custody situations, the benefit can be split, and each parent gets 50% of what they would have received if they were the only parent. Check out this blog to learn more about the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).

Claim your childcare costs.

The CRA and Revenu Québec recognize that families could use help paying for their childcare provider and make room on your tax return for these expenses. It’s important to make sure you have receipts from your daycare or babysitter to prove what you paid for their services. If you’re paying a family member to look after your children while you’re working or going to school, you can claim these costs too as long as they are 18 or over and you provide a receipt with their SIN. Just remind your helpful family member that they’ll also need to report this income on their tax return. Check out this blog to learn more about claiming your childcare expenses.

I separated from my partner. Can I claim my legal fees?

Unfortunately, you can’t claim legal fees you paid to establish custody or visitation rights or to obtain a divorce. However, you can claim the fees you paid to get an order for support payments or to enforce the collection of support payments.

Report what you pay or receive for child support.

If your divorce or separation agreement is from after May 1, 1997 then child support payments are neither taxable nor deductible, but you do need to report them on your tax return.

I’m paying child support. Can I still claim my child as a dependant?

If you’re paying child support, you can’t claim your children as dependants on your return, except the year you separated from your spouse (as long as they were living with you). You also can’t claim a deduction for your child support payments, unless the court order or agreement is from before May 1997. Even though it might not be deductible, you still need to indicate the child support amounts you paid on your return.

I have primary custody of our child. What can I claim?

Single parents with primary custody can claim the amount for an eligible dependant for one child. You might be asked to prove that you have custody to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Revenu Québec. Make sure you have supporting documents to show that your child lives with you, such as a court order or a letter from their school.

I have joint custody of our child. What can I claim?

Unfortunately, the amount for an eligible dependant can’t be split, so you and your child’s other parent need to decide who will be claiming it. The good news? You can take turns and alternate who makes this claim over the years.

If you have joint custody of two or more children, each parent can claim the amount for an eligible dependant for one of their children, as long as they claim a different child. For example, if you share custody of three children, then you can claim the amount for one of your children, and the other parent can claim the amount for one of the other two children on their own return.

Be careful! If both parents claim the amount for an eligible dependant for the same child, the CRA won’t give it to either parent.

In addition, if you took on some legal fees to figure out the amount of child support you’re entitled to, you can claim them against your income. If you paid legal fees to negotiate your child support payments, you’re allowed to claim those, too. You can also claim legal fees that you took on to collect late child support payments.

Claim your child as a dependant if they still need your help after 18.

Most of the time, once your child turns 18, they’re no longer considered a dependent for tax purposes, even if you continue to support them. But there’s an exception: if your child is 18 or older and needs special attention, you can still claim them as a dependant.

Ask your child about their tuition or education credits.

If your child is attending college or university, they might be able to provide you with unused tuition and educations credits if they have more credit than taxes they owe. They can transfer these credits to you even if they are older than 18. Visit the H&R Block Online Help Centre to learn how to claim your dependant’s unused tuition amounts.

Keep the government in the loop if your living arrangements change.

Making sure you keep the CRA and if applicable, Revenu Québec, informed of your living arrangements can help you maximize your benefits while avoiding tax issues down the road. If you decide to move in with the other parent of your child, you’re considered common-law for tax purposes right away. If you move in with someone else, you’re only considered common-law after you’ve lived together for a year. If you get married or become common-law, you should report this change to the CRA and Revenu Québec. Changes to your marital status, including common-law changes, might affect your claim amounts as well as your eligibility for the Canada Child Benefit. Learn more about how changes to your marital status can affect your taxes, and how to keep the CRA or Revenu Québec up-to-date.

Ready to file, but still have questions about your tax situation? Get help from the largest network of reliable Tax Experts by choosing one of four convenient ways to file: File in an Office, Drop-off at an Office, Remote Tax Expert, or Do It Yourself Tax Software

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